Defiant top-scorer Gary Ballance refused to be downbeat despite England being dismissed for 297 on the opening day of the third Investec Test against Pakistan at Edgbaston.
Ballance chalked up a resolute 70 while sharing half-century stands with Moeen Ali, who notched 63, and James Vince after England were invited to bat in seamer-friendly conditions.
Recalled quick Sohail Khan marked his first Test match for five years by taking 5-96, including three of England’s top four and the prize wicket of vice-captain Joe Root, as he justified Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq’s decision to bowl first.
“We’ve had an okay day,” said Yorkshire batsman Ballance.
“We spoke at tea and said let’s get to 300 and we’ll be happy with that. We’ve got near enough 300 and I think overall we’re relatively happy. If someone had gone on to get a big hundred, 350 would have been better but we’re in the game now.
“It’s one of those wickets where you never feel in. You always felt there was that ball which had your name on it. It kept you honest all day. Guys got starts but weren’t able to kick on but overall we’re pretty happy with it.”
Ballance’s knock was his first score of 50 since he was recalled to the side at the beginning of the Pakistan series, which is currently locked at 1-1, having not played for England for more than a year after being axed during last summer’s Ashes.
“When I was first left out my mind was all over the place. It was a tough few months but you have to find ways of dealing with it,” added Ballance.
“You can feel that everyone is on your case but that’s the way it goes, you have to be tough enough to deal with it and move on. Hopefully, I’ve done that now. I feel like I’m playing well again.”
England’s innings was littered with batsmen making starts but failing to capitalise. Skipper Alastair Cook racked up eight fours in amassing 45 before joining fellow opener Alex Hales and Root in the pavilion with England 75-3.
That became 158-5 after Vince departed for 39 and Jonny Bairstow for 12. Ballance and Moeen progressed the score to 224 before the former was caught behind by wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed off Yasir Shah – the leg-spinner’s sole victim of the day.
Ballance had been short of runs in the series, his previous best was the 43 he scored in a losing cause during England’s second innings at Lord’s, but dug in and faced 150 deliveries for his 70
Seamers Mohammad Amir and Rahat Ali picked up two wickets apiece, although the day belonged to Sohail. The snaring of tail-ender Jimmy Anderson LBW handed the 32-year-old his fifth scalp after finishing with combined figures of 1-245 from his two previous Tests in 2009 and 2011.